Swastika on electricity box jolts Cape community
A swastika spraypainted onto an electricity box near Stellenbosch was available for all to see, but it was a Cape Town rabbi who stepped up to ensure that the authorities were notified, and the local ward councillor is taking the matter seriously.
But, ironically, amidst the country’s energy crisis, the authorities need Eskom to get the graffiti removed as it’s on the utility’s electricity box.
“I work for Kosher SA, and I had a meeting last week at Firgrove Industrial Park, outside Stellenbosch,” says Rabbi Levi Silman, rabbinic co-ordinator for kosher factories in the Western Cape. “The swastika was painted on an electricity box just outside the industrial park, on the way in. I noticed it, and it was quite troubling, but I didn’t feel like it was threatening or dangerous. I just took a picture and posted it on Facebook. I thought it was important for it to be exposed and for people to be aware, but I didn’t feel like there was anything I had to be afraid of. It’s probably an isolated incident.”
He also alerted the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape SAJBD).
“Cape SAJBD Programme and Development Manager Joshua Friedman contacted Peter Helfrich, the ward councillor for the Macassar area,” says Cape SAJBD Executive Director Daniel Bloch. “He responded almost immediately, conveying his apologies for the offensive act.
“However, as the swastika was painted on an Eskom electrical box which is Eskom’s property and therefore outside the city’s jurisdiction, the city cannot clean the mess. Mr Helfrich has put us in contact with the relevant Eskom contact, and we will follow up further,” says Bloch.
“Naturally, we would like the swastika to be removed and hopefully, Eskom will do this as soon as possible. We’re also trying to ascertain if there is CCTV footage in the area to identify the perpetrators. This does seem highly unlikely as the incident occurred in a remote area. However, we are awaiting Eskom’s response.”
Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, Helfrich says, “Ward 109 in the City of Cape Town is a peace-loving community. We’re a community rich in diversity, and we celebrate this. We can never associate ourselves with anything or anyone that seeks to divide people, nor can we condone discrimination of any kind. I reported this matter to Eskom, which is the owner of the electricity kiosk, and have asked it to remove the graffiti as soon as humanly possible.”
On the morning of 24 May, he received a response from an Eskom employee, saying, “I have escalated a response to the zone manager as I have not received any from the sector manager. I will advise as soon as I receive a response from them as maintenance of infrastructure is their responsibility.”
“It’s not really what we were hoping for, but I’m happy they have now acknowledged our email and have escalated it,” says Helfrich.
While this doesn’t happen often in the Western Cape, “two years ago, a small swastika was painted on the wall of Muizenberg Synagogue. This was quickly removed”, says Bloch. “Fortunately, we haven’t seen any other incidents related to the painting of swastikas – none that have been reported.”
However, commenting on Silman’s Facebook post, community member Candice Goodson said, “I saw swastikas painted on a lamp post in Woodstock, and removed them myself. Antisemitism isn’t welcome.”
“We would like to thank the member of our community who reported this incident to us,” says Bloch. “At the Board, we take these matters of vandalism and antisemitism seriously.”
Any vandalism or antisemitism can be reported to the Cape SAJBD via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on the antisemitism WhatsApp line 079 994 5573.